by The Waiter (Steve Dublanica)
After getting laid off from his corporate job, “The Waiter” decides to start working in food service until he figures out what he wants to do with his life. As the years pass, he experiences the best and worst in his job as a waiter: screeching customers, unreliable coworkers, corrupt managers and mercurial, controlling bosses. He’s no closer to knowing what he wants to do, but he starts writing a blog about his adventures in the restaurant biz and it takes off. Soon, he’s offered a book deal which just may be his ticket out of food service.
I never read the blog that led to this book, but I’ve been told that much of the material in the book was originally published there. I had expected the book to mostly be stories about crazy customers, waiters spitting in food, rats in the pantry, that sort of thing…and yes, there’s a fair amount of those stories here. The descriptions of cockroaches climbing all over the restaurant’s electrical box was super disgusting. But a good chunk of the book – perhaps even as much as half – is mostly introspection as the author considers his personal life. Over and over, he reminds us that he’s a thirty-eight year old man with no girlfriend and no idea what he wants to do with himself. I came to the book wanting comedy, but it’s hard to laugh when you keeping thinking, “This man is a loser, and his life is just sad.”
(Also, I know I shouldn’t pick on the guy’s life choices, because Lord knows I’ve made plenty of bad ones, but I was inappropriately amused that this man who once went to seminary with full intention of becoming a priest now frequents strip clubs and drinks like a fish. I guess abstinence is always the first thing to go…at any rate, reading this middle-aged man’s lusting for girls in their early twenties is, frankly, a little creepy.)
The anonymous waiter (who has since outed himself) was a psychology major during his college years, and this gives him interesting insights on why people become waiters, why his boss has serious control issues, and why some of his customers are so crazy. Unfortunately, one of his favorite ways of sharing these ideas is through some of the clumsiest dialogue I’ve had the misfortune to read. He often dumps mountains of advice and homespun philosophy on his coworkers in conversations I can only hope are imagined – if he’s really lecturing everyone he meets like this, all I can say is that it’s little wonder he can’t find a date. At the end of the book, he had lists like ’40 Tips to Being a Good Customer’ which seemed patronizing, especially since I can boil it all down to one thing: tip 20% or more.
That said, I did enjoy listening to the book on a long drive to Oregon. I worked in retail for many years, and had to deal with a lot of unpleasant customers, so I had a lot of empathy for the wait staff at Amici’s and The Bistro. When the author categorized his customers by type, I laughed, because I recognized them from my own experiences. It’s a pity an aggressive editor didn’t work on this book a little more, removing some of the repeating cycle of, “I don’t wanna be a waiter but I don’t know what else to do; maybe if this writing thing works out I can leave” and making the conversations flow a little more naturally.
3.5 out of 5 stars